Smart city and sustainable city : the case of Amsterdam

Jean DANIELOU, 2014

Issue: To what extent can the smart city respond to the problems of sustainable development? The city of Amsterdam is proposing a global strategy at the intersection of technological innovation and sustainable development, a flagship project: the Smart work centers.

In 2009, the city of Amsterdam initiated a program called Amsterdam Smart City, which aims to make the bet on technological innovation while pursuing the objectives of the sustainable city. The city has set itself the goal of reducing its CO2 emissions by 40% by 2025. To achieve this ambition, but also to promote new models of urban development, 5 strategic areas have been selected: housing, mobility, public facilities, open data and work.

  1. Housing is held responsible for the emission of one third of Co2 in the city, to reduce the environmental footprint of this sector, the city plans to install smart meters allowing residents to measure and regulate their energy consumption in real time. This project is currently underway (with the industrialist Alliander) and is still at the experimental stage.

  2. Motorized mobility is responsible for another third of CO2 emissions. Rather than treating mobility as an element detached from other activities, the city of Amsterdam has adopted a systemic viewpoint by linking the mobility brick to the employment brick. The traffic jams associated with commuting (daily migrations between work and home) can be greatly reduced by bringing workplace and home closer together. It is in this perspective that the Smart work centers have been developed, an initiative that is already in place and functional. The term Smart work center, or smart workplace, refers to a coworking and teleworking space where one can temporarily set up his professional activity. In other words, the worker no longer has an office, but offices scattered throughout the urban space, which he chooses to occupy according to the place where he is. This implies that the linear model linking point A (living area) to point B (working area) is broken down into a network of possibilities linking A to points B1 (office 1), B2, B3, etc. These new urban spaces, which are defined in relation to their time of use, are an intelligent response to the problems of congestion (and therefore of pollution) caused by commuting. Moreover, it is also a way to reduce the land pressure that is too often a barrier to the establishment of start-ups in the urban environment. Such an initiative gives a good overview of the movement of spatial diversification that the smart city is taking: functional mix, the end of zones dedicated to specific activities, the emergence of ubiquitous activities, etc. are all witnesses of an urban spatiality based on these new connected and easily accessible places. The city of Amsterdam has deployed a network of about thirty Smart work centers spread throughout the city with different subscription regimes ranging from year to day of occupation of these mobile offices. This pricing flexibility allows for greater access to these spaces for temporary activities and smaller budgets.

The implementation of the Smart work centers is the result of a partnership between the city of Amsterdam and the CISCO Internet Business Solutions Group. It is interesting to note that the group’s expertise in urban planning is almost new, and that the general movement to introduce information and communication technologies (ICT) into the city has led to the entry of new players (mainly IT and ICT) into the urban factory process.

The city of Amsterdam is responding to sustainability goals by using smart solutions. In this perspective, the smart city appears as a means to implement the sustainable city. The strategy adopted is comprehensive and systemic. However, not all projects have the same degree of realization. The Smart work centers are different in that they are now fully operational and integrated into the functioning of the city. They are a response to commuting, car congestion and land pressure.

It is necessary to note that this solution cannot be exported to all cities. Indeed, this new urban model assumes the presence of many professionals of the knowledge economy, because it is mainly this category of active people who can work in a mobile office and moreover, for this model to be effective, it is necessary to deploy a network of Smart work centers, which assumes a significant initial investment that can only be supported on the condition of subsidies or of a strong frequentation of these places, thus ensuring their profitability.